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Tis the Season…to Eat in Season!

 

Christina Quint, MA, is the sustainability analyst for Inova’s Office of Sustainability. In this role, she provides programmatic support, manages sustainability communication and marketing, and oversees environmental data collection and analysis to ensure optimal operational performance across the Inova system.

National nutrition month may have come to a close, but that’s no reason to lose your healthful eating momentum. The onset of spring harvest offers an array of nutritious produce that is sure to inspire some creativity in the kitchen.

Before I moved to Northern Virginia last June, I spent six years living in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley: Harrisonburg, Virginia. There, in an area densely-populated with local farms, eating with the seasons is something that was deeply-engrained in the local culture. A majority of nearby restaurants rotated their menus to reflect seasonal harvests, and I can’t recall a single time that my meal didn’t boast ingredients procured within a 50-mile radius. I also lived two blocks away from a co-op grocer which almost exclusively sold in-season produce.

My time spent in the Shenandoah offered me a deep appreciation for the environmental and wellness components of eating with the seasons. When we eat in-season produce that is locally-available, it minimizes the environmental impacts of “food mileage”—the associated pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from eating produce that was shipped from across the country (or further).

The reduced transportation miles from farm to fork also ensures that you’re eating produce that has reached full maturity, meaning you reap the nutritional benefits as well. In fact, some research suggests that since conventional produce is picked before it is fully ripened, the nutritional quality of these fruits and vegetables is likely compromised.

The following fruits and vegetables considered in-season in Virginia:
• Asparagus
• Artichokes
• Fresh herbs
• Greens, including spinach, lettuce, and kale
• Radishes
• Peas
• Broccoli
• Apples
• Strawberries

I have also experienced a more qualitative bonus to eating seasonal produce: rather than seeing fruits and vegetables as merely side dishes, I’ve come to appreciate my produce taking center stage in my cooking. I especially love cooking with spring produce because of its distinct freshness and brightness, along with its nutritional abundance. Antioxidant-packed strawberries, vitamin-rich asparagus, and high-fiber greens are at their peak during this transitional season, meaning you can meet your nutritional goals with produce that is local and seasonally available.
There is a healthful, colorful, and delicious diversity of spring produce available for us to celebrate and enjoy, all while being mindful of our environmental footprints. Sometimes, all it takes is the right recipe to get excited about all that spring’s bounty has to offer.

 

To get you inspired, here are a few of my favorites.

This Chicken, Broccoli, and Asparagus Stir-Fry is a quick, nutrient-dense dinner that’s perfect for busy weeknights—and easily adaptable for vegetarians and vegans like myself. Just substitute tofu or tempeh for a plant-based protein, and add mushroom sauce instead of oyster sauce.

 

  • My favorite seasonal salad is this Warm Spring Salad. This flavorful recipe boasts six seasonal ingredients, and is hearty enough for an entrée salad. Feel free to top with your favorite protein to supplement the quinoa.
  • In the mood for something sweet? This Strawberry Rhubarb Basil Jam is packed with three in-season ingredients, and is refined sugar-free. Instead of agar agar, I like to add about two tablespoons of chia seeds while simmering for an added thickener and fiber boost.

Do you have a favorite spring recipe? Share it in the comment section below. Happy cooking!

5 Comments

  1. Judy Del Priore, Diagnostic Imaging on April 5, 2017 at 2:56 pm

    White Bean Salad

    1 can of white beans drained
    1 lg or 2 medium tomatoes cut up
    2 medium or 2 small cucumber sliced
    3-5 green onions sliced (cut the head and chop all the way down into the green
    Crushed red pepper to taste
    Salt and Pepper to taste
    Cumin (shake enough on so the top of the bowl looks lightly covered)
    ½- 1 tsp Minced garlic
    Olive oil
    White vinegar (just a splash)
    Lemon juice (again just a splash)
    olive oil to taste

    Mix together well and taste to see if it needs more salt or seasonings. Most often, you may need to add more Cumin. Cover and refrigerate. Usually better the next day and stir well before eating.
    Another thing you can do with white beans is make Pasta Fagioli

    1 can of white beans, don’t drain
    1 tsp of minced garlic
    Olive oil
    Salt and Pepper

    In a large skillet, add 2 TBS of olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and brown
    Then add the can of beans stirring well and bring to a low boil. If you have a potato masher, mash the means well stirring so it does not burn and lower heat. Add your salt and pepper and a little water maybe 3/.4 cup and simmer.

    Boil some pasta, drain then add it to the bean mixture, mixing it well. You can also add broccoli to this if you want to add a vegetable, or roasted chicken for extra flavor and use the juices in the bottom of the

    It is a high protein meatless dish that tastes great!

    Hope this works for you.

  2. Judy Del Priore, Diagnostic Imaging on April 5, 2017 at 2:57 pm

    The longer it sits, the more delicious it tastes!

    • Christina Quint on April 7, 2017 at 4:20 pm

      Oh, wow. These both sound fantastic! I’ll have to give them both a try. I love white beans!

  3. Christina Quint on April 7, 2017 at 4:19 pm

    Oh, wow. These both sound fantastic! I’ll have to give them both a try. I love white beans!

  4. Beverly Russo RN on April 10, 2017 at 1:27 pm

    The White Bean Salad is delicious! Thanks for sharing Judy!

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